Losing a key cast member is every filmmaker’s nightmare, but as unfortunate as it is, it sometimes happen and the history has proof to show which includes 1962 Something’s Got to Give, the “famously cursed” 1978 Game of Death, and more recently, Gladiators (2000) and Fast & Furious 7 (2015), where Paul Walker left us in an unfortunate car accident. Given the technology at the time of Something’s Got to Give and Game of Death, there was really nothing studios can do with the passing of Marilyn Monroe and Bruce Lee, but in the case of Fast & Furious 7, modern technology allows Oliver Reed to continue his presence in Gladiator and ensures Paul’s hard work in Furious 7, up to the point of his passing, will not be washed down the drain.
But with Furious 7, things gets a little trickier as Paul was one of lead characters, which obviously required more to be done if the studio has any hope in finishing the movie in a convincing and fitting way as a final send off to the late actor. And for that to happen, Furious 7 production studio engaged Peter Jackson’s WETA Workshop, who has made its name creating photorealistic lifelike characters such as Caesar in Dawn of the Plant of the Apes and Gollum in The Lord of the Rings, to digitally recreate Paul Walker’s face and mapping it over his brother, Cody’s body and the result is as realistic as it can gets i.e. if you have been living in a cave for the last 12 months and watched the movie, you probably won’t find anything amiss.
The movie magic pulled off by CGI is not limited to movies. In fact, Taiwanese singer/song writer Jay Chou had sang a duet with a famous Chinese singer Teresa Teng, who have been dead for 20 years, in a live concert in 2013. The virtual Teresa was eerily lifelike, which reminds us of the darker side of CGI brought up by The Hollywood Reporter, where it was noted that actors are scanned prior to the shoot, “so that CG doubles can be make to fill in the complicated stunt scenes.” This also means that the actor’s likeness could also be used eternally, assuming movies are still a thing and there’s no apocalypse. Well, if that’s the case, can someone tell Hugh Jackman he can continue to play the part of Wolverine, well, maybe just not physically. Though we are sure not if we want to see Robert Downing Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man for decades after decades. Keep going for a video that kind of sums up how the technology works.